If we were to give 2022 a word-of-the-year, it would have to be ‘partnership’. A few contenders for second place would perhaps be ‘celebration’, ‘covenant’ or ‘interdependence’. If we’re allowed two words, I’d add ‘looking ahead’. 2022 has served as a reminder for this as ACT’s story continues to be written.
2022 marked the 40th anniversary of ACT. Forty years of learning, serving and walking with some of the most wonderful partners you could imagine. Celebrations in the USA, Sweden, the Netherlands, Tunisia and the UK brought together many who have been a part of ACT’s story throughout the years. It was a privilege to have so many opportunities to come together, celebrate amongst friends and look forward to where ACT may be headed next.
As ACT has explored opportunities in other countries of North Africa, Libya and Mauritania have emerged as significant opportunities. Relationships are central to our plan for expansion and we are working on building on initial contacts so that these relationships can be explored as partnerships of mutuality and interdependence. In both countries we have found opportunities and invitations within this context of relationship that has us looking forward to piloting small projects in both nations in the coming year.
It has been a good year for projects in Tunisia. The Capacity Building Project, the Community Development Project – Phase III and the Reflective Practice Project all came to completion in 2022. We saw a new area of focus for ACT take shape with the start of the Counter Trafficking and Vulnerability Reduction Project. We are working with a new partner in the Northwest to prevent situations of vulnerability of young girls and women in the region who may be at risk of being trafficked for domestic labour within wealthy homes in Tunisia.
The teams in El Kef, Gabès and Tunis continue on with their rhythm of project and central roles. Things have been much more stable since the lifting of the final Covid restrictions still in place from 2021. We rejoice that we were able to gather together for our spring conference as well as for our 40th anniversary celebration. The Tunisia director’s team – Hannah in HR & Admin, Jared in Finance and Julia in Projects – continue to lead and steer, supported by the International Director and the International Finance Director. We remain grateful to Steve and Ismay Green for their year of service in order to help shape the new director’s team, as well as joining the Tunisia team once again.
ACT is thrilled to welcomed (back) Freddie Herrera as ACT’s International Finance Director; she will support in a number of ways, in particular the opportunities we are exploring in Mauritania. We also welcomed a new seconded couple, who quickly settled into the rhythm of language learning, exploring new locations and making community. The next step will be the beginning of project exploration in 2023 – stay tuned!
We were sad to say good-bye to a few of our Tunisia team members in 2022. Holding in tension the joy and excitement that comes from people stepping faithfully into a new season with the sense of loss that comes with farewells, we are grateful to those who played such important roles in the life and story of ACT.
In Tunisia, we are witnessing increasingly demanding financial and administrative management legislation and practices, as well as greater scrutiny of and growing opposition to foreign financial internvention. Some in authority have voiced opinions that foreign funding should be completely prohibited, and that civil society associations should not be needed and therefore shouldn’t exist. So far there has not been any overt moves to make this the reality, but we remain in prayer that the doors needed for ACT to continue to be present and in partnership across North Africa will remain firmly open.
To borrow Steve’s words from 2021’s forward: “A tough year, yes, but we are convinced that we are still called to live out our vision and values in Tunisia for the transformation of communities which are vulnerable and marginalised. How we do that may change, but the call and purpose remain the same.”
I’m appreciative of the chance to reflect back that the pulling together of this forward affords me. A chance to celebrate, a chance to remember learnings – both from where things went according to plan and when they didn’t – and to seek to put them into practise as we look ahead.
May you be blessed and kept.